Quickly after posting pics of Lucy's new princess dress yesterday I realized what a squandered opportunity it was to write only about how I made this costume for my daughter — and not WHY?
After all, you may not know this, but I am a full-on feminist — the kind who lays awake at night troubled by the messages my little kidlet is absorbing from books, movies and music (to some that may seem antithetical because I am a work-at-home mom who sew her family's clothes and bakes pies — a traditional skillset that would have served me well in a more repressive time).
I kept princess culture away from my kid as long as possible. (For an interesting analysis of Princess Culture, check out Peggy Orenstein's "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" — a great read for any parent of a girl). Not only do I find it upsetting to encourage our daughters to aspire to an elite position only attainable through birth or marriage, but the endgame in all princess stories is teen marriage — not something I would wish for my daughter. I prefer her to watch shows and read books about solving mysteries, making friends, or starting a rock band (her latest love is "Ruby Gloom," which will turn her into a goth quite soon I'm sure of it).
Maybe it's the English Major in me that I cannot enjoy these classic tales without parsing out the patriarchal oppression. Poor Cinderella is forced into child labor, with marriage her only means of escape. The Little Mermaid gives up her voice for a man. Belle develops Stockholm Syndrome for a major jerk. And you can't get any more passive than Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, who both end up in comas.
But Disney princesses (especially the post-Millenial ones) are also brave and adventurous — qualities I do like to encourage in my daughter. Tiana outwits a Voodoo witch doctor. Merida fights off a bear with her bow and arrow to save her mother (If you haven't seen it, Brave is an incredible feminist film. All of the main characters are female, and there's no love story — only a rescue adventure tale that brings a girl and her mom closer together). So, I made my daughter a princess dress. This is what she does in it:
Thinking about all this earlier today, I asked my daughter what was so great about being a princess.
"You get to have fancy things like dresses," she said. Like, duh, mom.
So she's in it for the fashion (and a little class escapism), which means I shouldn't be so hung up on all the other stuff.
Because if I do, she'll probably rebel and become one of those women who dream about getting married at Disney World in full princess regalia. Or worse. Better to get it out of her system early, so she can go on to mutilate Barbie dolls or whatever it is that five-year-olds do.
Any parents out there who wrestle with the Disney Princessification of your kid? Do you try to get your child to think critically about these stories (which I try to do, to my kid's annoyance)?